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Traveling_Jim 04-23-2006 12:09 PM

Statistical Risks of Ocean Voyaging?
I wonder if anyone has every seen any actuarial or other statistical information relating to the possible risks of ocean voyaging. Or, has anyone had to pay increased life insurance premiums because of a planned trip?

(Please note that this is an intellectual curiousity of mine. It is personal and philosphical question about how much risk one is willing to assume in life. I've scuba dived, flown private planes, and traveled to less desirable places in the world -- all of which would have raised my life insurance premiums -- assuming I had such a thing. I've had skydivers tell me that it is more dangerous to drive to the airport, than to jump out of the airplane. I'm not sure if I believe this but it makes a good story. I have heard that commercial aviation is so safe statistically, that commercial airplane pilots buy life insurance at normal rates.)

In any event, I'm curious and would appreciate any information. Maybe I can adapt that skydiver line....;)

sailandoar 04-23-2006 12:31 PM

Interesting question....
In last 20 to 30 years there has been a very large increase in (1) the number of FAST freighters/tankers, (2) floating large trash/logs/containers, (3) off-shore bouys, (4) oil-platforms, (5) ocean voyagers, (6) deep water fisheries.

Seems like some of the hi-tech-ish forward scanning sonars could be a big help or at least warn you to hold on tight in the stormly driving rain pitch blackness just before you surfed into the bracing/understory of an oil-platform or bumped a container full of Nike running shoes. At least the oil platforms don't appear over night and if you update charts regularly you should be aware of 98% of off-shore bouys(?), so that leaves trash as the wild card, bump and slid over the logs one hopes but containers are rather gnarley.

Wonder what Jimmy Cornell, Hal Roth, Elizabeth Autissier, Catherine Chabaud and Ellen MacArthur think about such things?

No shortage of or problem finding things to worry about!

Traveling_Jim 04-23-2006 04:10 PM

Dear Sailandoar:

Thank you for the reply. However, I see your reply as being more about managing the inherent risks of voyaging than quantifying them.

I'm still curious if there is actuarial type data out there. We know that the insurance industry collects data on all sorts of factors, occupations, locations, etc. Perhaps, ocean voyaging is too small an activity for them to bother with?

Still, it would be interesting to know if there is objectice information about our activity. Is the risk within the normal range of activities? Is is slightly higher? Or, even slightly lower?

kimberlite 04-23-2006 04:43 PM

It seems that insurance companies are worried about huricane areas,
sailing south of 50 degrees, and north of 57 degrees and around the northeast coast of africa.
other than that they are only interested in the quantity and quality of the crew.
the possibility of running into trouble in a sound boat with a good crew is slight .
we have been in a few storms, numerous gales, and was stopped dead when we hit a whale 1000 miles east of the canaries.

still no sweat.


fair winds,

sailandoar 04-24-2006 12:13 AM

Data on the risks?
Try (1) Jimmy Cornell who writes on (and does) worlds cruising and organizes tras-oceanic rallies and (2) folks involved in the organization of round the world races (e.g. BOC, Vendee Globe) and (3) Chay Blyth or his organization who does the Global Challange where you pay to race around the world on matched sailboats with professional captains. All these folks are (A) in a position to know if the data exists and (B) to put you in touch with those who do know.

I am sure that all these folks have to deal with insurance issues and could put you in touch with the underwriters who have the data.

jared 04-24-2006 02:49 PM

Jim, you can quantify many of the risks but I suspect this is a little bit like the saying that insurance companies charge more for red cars. It isn't that red is somehow more dangerous (if anything it is easier to spot) but that the folks who pick flashy cars probably also are "flashy" drivers, i.e. more aggressive, and that's what is being targeted.

A lot of cruisers frankly cruise solo or short handed and don't keep an adequate watch. A lot of ocean freight doesn't keep watch either. And, folks who go to sea in small boats are likely to be less conservative than the ones who stay on land. (Wm. Buckley Jr. aside.<G>)

So I'm not sure you could sort out all the issues and just use "ocean voyaging" as a sole criteria. I think skill and experience levels, age, occupation, and others would be the weighted factors, not just voyaging.

Are voyagers also non-smokers?<G> In that case, maybe that's all an insurer needs to know. One big set of bills they won't pay, and if they disappear at sea, you've got seven years before you have to pay out anyway.

Traveling_Jim 04-25-2006 10:27 AM

First, let me thank all of you for your responses.

I suppose I'm interested in the insurance data because it gives an overall, AVERAGE measure of risk for a particular activity or a particular factor. Sometimes that average can be instructive. A couple of years ago I looked up a quote for life insurance. At the time I was 205 pounds (5'10 1/2"). I found that this weight put me in the increased rate category and that I had to be 195 pounds to get the normal rate. That was a bit of an eye-opener because while I knew I was a bit overweight I didn't think much of it. However, masses of statistics said otherwise.

Jared, your point is well taken about confounding factors and that ocean voyaging may not be statistically significant. If that is the case, then that would be interesting to know.

Of course, if we choose to engage in an activity, responsible, mature adults try to minimize their risks. If I scuba dive, I try to minimize the risks, but I still know that is significantly riskier than not getting in the water. Fine. I'll take the risks because I want the benefits of the activity.

Kimberlite, thanks for mentioning the other exclusions from yacht insurance. I knew about hurricane areas but not about the high latitudes. I expect that in the high latitudes a "hull loss" is most likely also a "crew loss".

Sailandor, thanks for mentioning Jimmy Cornell. I sent him an email yesterday at his website. I expect that if anyone has numerical data that he does. I'll let everyone know if I find out anything.

HenkMeuzelaar 04-28-2006 11:02 PM

Statistical Risks of Offshore Cruising
Many offshore sailors would probably be interested in having answers to the questions you are asking even though not everyone may be willing to admit so. Nonetheless, most of us understand at an intuitive level that this question cannot be meaningful without specifying the type of vessel (heavy or light displacement, vessel length and beam, sailplan, mono- or multihull, keel type, etc.), the type of crew (experience, condition, size, strength, group dynamics, etc.), the type of weather (visibility, wind strength, gustiness, wind shear, temperature, precipitation, lightning activity etc.) the type of ocean environment (depths, currents, wave action, searoom). Also, we need to specify and define the types of risk we want to measure, e.g. heavy vessel damage, loss of vessel, serious injury, loss of life, collateral damage, etc.

The intersection of all these variables can be thought to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of boxes (or rather multidimensional hyperspheres) within each of which there might conceivably exist sufficient homogeneity to conduct a statistically meaningful risk evaluation that could have a definite level of predictive value for anyone finding him- or herself in that particular box at a given point in time.

When dealing with highly complex statistical environments such as this it is best to try and reduce the complexity by eliminating as many of the factors as possible. Since this is a common predicament in human behavioral studies the wellknown use of twins provides an example of this reduction technique. In ocean sailing there is only a single group of one-design sailing vessels and crews, more or less sailing the same routes, that might produce enough statistical data to allow a formal risk study within their subset of "boxes" in hyperspace, namely Chay Blyth's Global Challenge fleet.

If you want to write anyone, he would be the logical person to ask. Whatever Jimmy Cornell says (with all due respect) is just one man's anecdotal opinion. In June 2000 we successfully sailed our Hunter Legend 43 Rivendel II directly from Cairns (Queensland, Australia) to Vanuatu against the prevailing trades, even though it was a La Nina year. Jimmy's sailing guide says "don't even consider this".......

Have fun

Flying Dutchman

stbatton 04-28-2006 11:53 PM

We hit a submerged steel pontoon or tank 100 nm off the coast of Cape Charles at night doing 10 knots. The tank rose up and slid across our deck taking all the stanchions out on the Port side. Luckly my sailboat is steel. I would have liked to have the forward radar. I was glad i was not sailing a clorox bottle

HenkMeuzelaar 04-29-2006 01:04 PM

Inertial momentum reigns
Congratulations on your narrow escape! Hitting a heavy floating object at night is every seafarer's horror scenario.

Meanwhile, it is sobering to consider that all of the impact force in a collision with a stationary object is being supplied by the inertial momentum [m x v] of your own vessel, plus whatever propulsion force vector may be there. Therefore, vessels wanting to travel at relatively high velocity [v] can only keep their inertial momentum down by reducing mass [m].

In other words, your proverbial "chlorox bottle" might do a lot better in a high speed collision than a comparatively shaped steel bottle traveling at the same velocity, provided it is protected by Kevlar collision mats (or similar light-weight, high-tensile-strength armor).

This is the reason why most US soldiers don't do battle in govenrment-issue steel cuirasses anymore, but rather prefer to wear lighter and stronger Kevlar body armor (sometimes provided by their loved ones at home ;o)

Although most major manufacturers of lightweight cruising and racing vessels now include strategically placed Kevlar fiber collision mats in their production designs, they still have some serious catching up to do with regard to the use of modern collision impact absorption technology.

Unlike modern production cars, which feature sophisticated collision absorption cages and/or sacrificial compartments these days, only some of the most advanced custom-built ocean-racing vessel designs now appear to use such constructions.

Have fun!

Flying Dutchman

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